Exploring Historic Istria in Croatia - Al Fresco Holidays
Istria, the largest peninsula on the Croatian coast, is undoubtedly also the most historically significant. The classically Mediterranean scenery, with verdant hillsides, sandy coves and romantic woodlands, conceal a rich and fascinating past: a timeline filled with pre-historic tribes, foreign invasions and shattering clashes of culture.
If you’re spending your holiday in Istria and are keen to get to grips with the local history, then you’ll be pleased to hear that when it comes to ancient attractions, you’ll be rather spoilt for choice.
Here is just a selection of Istria’s historical highlights for you to explore when holidaying in the region.
Historic Istria: The Finest Historic Sights in the Area
Roman Amphitheatre, Pula
Of all Istria’s historic attractions, Pula’s magnificent Roman Amphitheatre is probably the most famous, and when travellers are actually standing in front of this remarkably well preserved relic, they very swiftly appreciate why.
The 1st-century construction, which was built during the time of the Roman invasion, was originally created to seat 20,000 people, and the sheer size of the arena is still mind-blowing to this day. Walk around the site, following in the footsteps of ancient gladiators, and take in the view of the harbour beyond. There are also many other Roman ruins in the area, and some fantastic beaches to relax on after a day’s intrepid exploration!
Pazin Castle, Pazin
If Medieval castles are more your thing, then Pazin Castle, the most well preserved castle in Istria, is simply unmissable. It’s also a great place to bring the children, as the interior of the castle not only provides intriguing insight into the lives of Croatian people in the Middle Ages, but also contains two museums, one of which contains grisly torture instruments that are sure to delight ghoulish young minds!
Pazin is also home to one of the country’s most famous sights, the Pazin chasm. This dramatic abyss sinks 100 metres below the ground and contains three underground lakes. Its mysterious depths inspired none other than the author Jules Verne! If you’re feeling energetic, the spectacular local scenery is also worthy of exploration, and there are a number of hiking trails to enjoy.
Church of St Euphemia, Rovinj
In the 18th century, the town of Rovinj enjoyed a prosperous period as Istria’s most important location, and as a result, the huge, Baroque-influenced Church of St Euphemia was erected there, in the centre of the old town.
Inside, there is a strong sense of the austere and classical, with white, soaring pillars and elegant domed ceilings. Externally, the bell tower is a powerful reminder of nearby Italy’s influence on the country. All in all, the church is a peaceful haven, and a welcome respite from the intense Mediterranean sun. The town of Rovinj itself is a joy to walk round, with a pleasingly quaint old town, a beautiful fishing port, and the islands that surround Rovinj are well worth exploring too.
Grimani Castle, Svetvincenat
The unassuming little town of Svetvincenat, surrounded by idyllic meadows, forests and vineyards, is home to one of Istria’s most intriguing historic buildings: the Grimani Castle. Originally built in the 13th century, it was improved throughout the following four centuries, taking on the form that it is today, complete with additional towers and a prison!
Children will enjoy exploring the building, and all the family will no doubt be fascinated by the story of the castle’s most notorious historical occasion, when an unfortunate lady was burnt at the stake for witchcraft (or, more likely, for having an affair with one of the Grimanis!)
If you want to experience something completely different, a world away from the ancient Roman ruins and medieval castles, then visit the strange subterranean passages of Zerostrasse in Pula. Constructed during the First World War, this network of eerie tunnels was originally built to protect the citizens of the city, and now lies empty, serving a powerful reminder of the more recent historical events in Istria’s history.
Visitors are free to walk through a number of the passageways, which all lead to a section in the middle, which houses an aviation exhibition.
Finding a place to stay in Istria
If you want to explore all the historic sights that the region has to offer, then it’s a good idea to locate an accommodation that provides good proximity to the areas that you really want to visit.
Camping Bi Village is perfectly situated for fans of Roman history, as the city of Pula is only 5 miles away. It also has three swimming pools and close proximity to the beach, which is well appreciated after a day of cultural exploration! Alternatively, Lanterna Holiday Park offers great accommodation, with plenty of entertainment for the entire family, whilst also offering a convenient location for many of Istria’s top sights.